Complex interdependence, cross-scale interactions, and co-evolution of environment, development, and democracy

@ATREE auditorium at 3.45 pm on 26th August 2016

This talk examines the complex interdependence of three universal concepts - Environment, Development, and Democracy - and empirically investigates their changing meaning, dynamic interactions, and mutual constitution across scale. Specifically, I review the social, economic, political, and environmental consequences of redistributive land reforms in Himachal Pradesh, India, over the last century and a half. Through historical and comparative analysis, I explore the interplay between social and environmental marginality, and its embeddedness within a larger canvas of spatial and temporal cross-scale interactions between social equity, economic growth, environmental change, and political mobilization. I argue that democracy emerges from interactions among a suite of actors, institutions, and processes operating across multiple scales, and co-evolves with the environment and development outcomes of these interactions. I suggest that socio-economic stratification and the ability to produce a surplus over subsistence needs are the main drivers of co-evolutionary trajectories of environment, development, and democracy. Exogenous macro-scale processes - technological progress, market penetration, social movements, political competition, welfare and development policies, and demographic shifts - influence local configurations of social and environmental marginality, propagating the co-evolution of environment, development, and democracy. I highlight the scope for synergy between redistributive land reforms and a deepening of democracy on the one hand and a reduction of social vulnerability on the other.

About the speaker
Ashwini Chhatre serves on the faculty at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. Ashwini has an undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Delhi and a PhD in Political Science from Duke University. In between, he spent 11 years working with local communities and social movements on democratic governance of natural resources in India. Ashwini was the Giorgio Ruffolo Post-doctoral Fellow in Sustainability Science at Harvard University during 2006-07, and served as a faculty member in the Department of Geography, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign between 2007 and 2014. Ashwini’s main research interests lie in the study of the intersection of democracy with environment and development, with a more recent focus on climate change vulnerability and adaptation, and projects covering the entire spectrum from household-level to global analysis. Ashwini currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of World Development Perspectives, has previously served as the Senior Editor of Conservation Letters for five years, and has co-authored one book besides publishing articles in world’s leading journals.